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Satisfy MacPorts Dependencies Locally


Like many Unix geeks, I have software installed that I’ve built manually from source. A good example is my post on compiling django; a number of the relevant dependencies were built in /usr/local/src/ and installed in /usr/local/. I also like using package managers, because if I’m not doing any customization (and the package is common and not hard-to-find), I want to just get the latest version and slap it in the right place. The conflict between the two methodologies is when a managed package depends on software that is already installed on your system, either part of the default configuration (OS X ships with a fair bit of Unixy software included, especially if you install the Dev Tools, although not always a “standard” or particularly recent version) or custom-built.

I recently dumped Fink for MacPorts; while I’ve used Fink for a long time, since an early version was available for Mac OS 10.2 Jaguar in fact, it’s just gotten in a messy state maintenance-wise. I’ve been familiar with apt since using Debian-based systems at the SCCS, but the mish-mash of binary and source items, the preponderance of out-of-date packages, and the apparent need to install 70 metric boatloads of GNOME just to satisfy a few dependencies was frustrating. Of course, MacPorts has its own weaknesses, as do almost all package managers; in particular, none of them seem to be able to track whether a package was installed explicitly by the user or merely to satisfy a dependency. My opinion is that the latter should get uninstalled when all of its dependents are uninstalled, but no package manager seems to agree with me on that. A rant on that probably merits a separate post.

Below the cut is a rough step-by-step guide to creating a local portindex and creating portfiles for your manual dependencies. Note that most MacPorts users would tell you this is a terrible idea, and you should just install all the port dependencies, but I already put the effort into these custom from-source builds and I just want to use them without duplicates getting dropped all over my hard drive.


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Nicolas Ward

Software engineer in Natural Language Processing research by day; gamer, reader, and aspiring UltraNurd by night. Husband to Andrle
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